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REPORT

PAUL ANDREWS WORKING FOR YOU

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR MESSAGE AND REPORT

2008/2009

The Council

The Conservatives now virtually control Ryedale District Council. Their leader is the Leader of the Council.

There is a leaders' group which makes all the decisions. This includes the leaders of the Conservatives, LibDems and Independents. They meet in private; the dates of their meetings are unknown, and no minutes are made public. One result is that there is a perception that there is no real opposition which can hold the controlling group to account. Another result is that major matters concerning particular wards can suddenly appear on committee agendas and take the ward members (who have received no advance warning or consultation) by surprise ­ particularly when it turns out that all the leaders are voting the same way.

This position has been made worse by a change of the Council’s constitution which severely limits the power of members to question decisions at full council  - Click for article

My position

I remain completely independent of all council groups as a resident. I do my best to work cross-party in the interest of Malton ward. I am only interested in local issues.

I am a member of the Town Council and work closely with them. All my main campaigns have had the support of the Town Council, and of the Malton community.

 

I am a member of the Council’s Planning and Scrutiny committees.

The following is a brief note of some of my work:

Malton Town Centre Strategy

I have spent an enormous amount of time on this this year.

At the start of the year there was controversy, as the FitzWilliam Estate pursued their proposals for the redevelopment  of the Cattle Market. I met representatives of the Cattle Market and of the Estate and suggested that, if the FitzWilliam development is to proceed, the Cattle Market should be relocated somewhere in the Pasture Lane area.

The situation became more complex when, in March, the Council produced the WSP Report and tried to push this through the planning process. The WSP plan proposed a superstore in Wentworth Street Car Park, together with multi-storey car parks there and in the Cattle Market – the kind of grandiose scheme that might suit many cities and large towns, but which is hardly appropriate for a small district centre like Malton. The WSP s document is short for the changes it proposes, and contains none of the data, calculations or tables that one would normally expect to find in a document of this kind. The WSP report contains no data in regard to traffic projections, and would have had a severe detrimental impact on the viability of the Cattle Market, as farmers use Wentworth Street Car Park for parking their wagons on market days.

I opposed the WSP plan in committee. I was supported by huge numbers of people at the back of the Council chamber.

The outcome of the opposition was to set up a Steering Group of councillors and interested bodies and persons with a view to working up a scheme for the Town Centre of Malton, which would be acceptable to the community. However, as meetings of the Steering Group progressed, it became clear that the only voting members were Council members, and that a majority of them were not prepared to discuss anything other than the WSP proposals. This led to strong disagreement and much dissatisfaction, and the Steering Group stopped meeting.

After the collapse of the Steering Group, I asked several of the members of the Steering Group to meet together and see if they could come up with an alternative to the WSP plan. This invitation was accepted by County Councillor David Lloyd Williams, Jason Fitzgerald-Smith (Deputy Mayor), Denys Townsend (Business in Action Chairman) Malcolm Chalk, Paul Beanland, Roddy Bushell (Malton Estate Manager), James Stephenson (Boulton and Cooper) and others, including representatives of two major landowners landowners. We had several meetings, and produced the “ Revitalisation Plan”. This preserves some of the features of the WSP plan, but keeps Wentworth Street Car Park as a public car park, and proposes a new four way grade separated junction between the A64 and Broughton Road.  The cattle market will be relocated; the present Cattle Market site redeveloped with new shops and a new food hall (Waitrose style), and there would be free car parling for 2 hours at Market Place.

The Council’s Chief Executive and Leader were invited to two of our most recent meetings. They accept the Revitalisation Plan in principle – except the idea of free car parking in Market Place and the continued use of Wentworth Street Car Park as a public car park – they still want to see a superstore there. However, it has been agreed that the whole Town Centre Strategy will now be considered as part of the new local plan (now called the Local Development Framework) – and not in advance of it.

Further information can be found under Town and Country Planning Articles (click here for article describing the likely impact of the WSP plan - if it is implemented) and under the “News and Views” tab.

 

 

Car Park Fees

As is well known, I campaigned strongly for lower car park fees in the last Council. The outcome of the campaign was a revised tariff for all Council car parks, a two year moratorium on further increases, and a 12 month "pilot" for long stay charges at Wentworth Street Car Park, Malton

.

In July 2007, the "pilot" was declared a failure, as it was said that there was no appreciable increase in ticket sales. The facts that the £1-50 all-day rate encouraged shoppers to stay longer in the car park and encouraged office and business staff to use Wentworth Street instead of crowding the Market Square car parks was not only ignored, but these matters were not even measured.

So, as from September 2007, the one fee fits all syndrome was applied to Wentworth Street and the charges went up to the level applicable in the rest of Ryedale. This has been followed by a further decision to put all long-stay car park charges up as from 1 st April - in one of the bands, by as much as 15%.

The Trial was not formally evaluated by the Council until a report was produced to Community Services Committee on 31st January 2008. This also declared the fees trial a failure. I challenged this at the time. Click here for a note of that meeting.

 

The result is that the charges in Malton are well in excess of those that apply to similar towns with little in the way of tourist attractions. They are not too high for tourist towns like Pickering. So, by applying a one charge fits all policy, is Ryedale actually favouring Pickering at the expense of Malton? Is this fair?

All the Council's leaders voted in favour of this appalling decision.

In May this year I was placed on Scrutiny Committee, and was able to press for a review of the Council Report that said that the Fees Trial in Wentworth Street Car Park had failed. I put a lot of time into writing notes and reports for the committee to show that the Council’s report was mistaken. These notes and reports are exhibited under the “News and Views” tab.

The main findings of the Committee are as follows:

  • Whilst over the period of the trial, the figures show some decline in overall revenues across all malton car parks,  there was evidence from previous years that there was a trend of declining income: the rate of decline reduced during the trial period, but it was not apparent that this was a result of the trial.
  • During the period of the trial, taking all factors into account, it is difficult to argue either way with certainty as to the success of the trial.
  • The review of car parking did not adequately reflect the occupancy of the car park, although usage and ticket sales were reviewed. There were no adequate measures of occupancy available, although if it were measured, it would be distorted by free parking for the market users, the permits and free permits for community house. It is likely that the average length of stay during the trial was higher.

Click here for the full text of the Scrutiny Committee's findings

In other words, the report which went to Community Services Committee on 31st January was flawed and did not contain sufficient information to justify its conclusion that the fees trial had failed.

One might have thought that, in the circumstances, and particularly bearing in mind  current difficulties created by the Credit Crunch, the Council would have hesitated before putting charges up again. Not Ryedale! The Committee simply accepted the Scrutiny Committee’s Report and then promptly ignored it – and put up all car park charges by 4%, operative as from 1 April 2009 (subject to ratification by Full Council on 15 January 2009).

I continue to campaign for the reduction in charges which my ward and town council wants. I look forward to seeing the FitzWilliam Estate take back the lease of Market Place Car Park, and hope the Council will do nothing to prevent or delay this.

I find it regrettable that the town cannot rely upon the democratically elected council to sort this matter out, but has to look to the Estate instead.

 Flooding and Land Drainage

The Environment Agency has produced a ''flood management plan" for the River Derwent Area. This would seem to be finance led, as one of the main recommendations is to breach the lowland flood defences and "unite the river with its natural flood plain".

This is a separate issue to the need for flood defences for Pickering, which I am happy to leave to others to promote.

For the last three and a half years I have campaigned for the Council to pay for the first phase of an expert investigation into the hydrology of Ryedale. The Council  agreed to this, and a draft report was produced in October.

In the meantime, the Environment Agency has produced another River Derwent Catchment Flood Management Plan. I can do no better than reproduce part of an article I wrote for the Gazette:

We are now into the “main” stage of the River Derwent Flood Management Plan. This follows the first one, and is even more explicit and should fill everybody in the Vale of Pickering with alarm. The draft version contains some elementary mistakes, such as miscalculating the population of the catchment, and a nice seaside picture of  Sandsend, Whitby, which is not even part of the Derwent Catchment.

It contains the following “key message”: “Flood levels may increase in the future because of climate change, making it more likely that Malton’s flood defences will be overtopped.”

On being questioned about dredging, the Agency said: “Dredging usually takes place within urban areas where sedimentation may lead to the blockage of culverts and the urban drainage system, resulting in significant economic damage. Within the Derwent catchment, dredging is not classed as economically or environmentally viable. This is due to the designation of the River Derwent corridor as a Special Area of Conservation, as well as the significant cost of continually dredging the river

Now you don’t need to be a genius to see that, if the river is not dredged, the level of the river bed will rise, and that it is this that will cause the flood defences to be overtopped – not climate change.

What then  is the Agency’s solution to the  future overtopping of Malton’s flood defences? I quote: “The embankments upstream of Malton may now not be required due to the hard defences at the town. Their operation and design will be investigated”.

 

Another passage is worth quoting in regard to an area North of Malton and West of Pickering: “Development of a plan to facilitate the withdrawal of maintenance to flood banks throughout the policy unit where possible”.

Of course, the maintenance of flood banks in these areas has been neglected for years, and the plan is clear: as the Agency won’t dredge the rivers, they will stop Malton and Norton’s flood defences being overtopped by removing flood banks and allowing the land to the North of the towns to flood.”

Click here for full text of the article

Click here for the comments I sent to the Environment Agency

Click here for Reply of Environment Agency

 

I continue to work with the Council and the Drainage Boards on this matter.

The lowland parishes in the Vale of Pickering now meet as the “Lower Vale of Pickering Parish Liaison Group” where flooding issues can be discussed. All parishes on the low ground in the Vale are able to send representatives and are urged to do so - contact Richard Scott on 01653 - 668184.

 

The Local Plan (the so called "Core Strategy")

This is a debate that has been going on for about three years. The present Local Plan is out of date, and a new one has to be put in its place. The first stage is to establish a "Core Strategy".

As part of this, it is planned to build 3,500 new houses in Ryedale in the next 15 years. The question is: where should they go? The Council decided to press ahead with a plan to restrict most new housing to 10 service villages and the four market towns. There was a public enquiry, and ten minutes before this was reconvened in November 2006, the inspector was told that 50% of all new houses were to be in Malton/Norton. The figures produced then had not been before any Council committee, although one assumes that they had been previously approved by the Leaders' Group. Fortunately, the Inspector found that the Core Strategy was unsound and refused to approve it.

The inspector's decision enraged the Council leadership

After the enquiry and the inspector's decision, I worked hard with others of all political persuasions to make sure that town and parish councils were properly consulted on these proposals. Malton and Norton Town Councils were particularly concerned about the quantity of new houses, and the quality and capacity of the infrastructure (schools, roads, drains and sewers etc.) that might be available to accommodate 1,750 new houses. They said they were prepared to accept 30% of the district's new houses - not 50%.

Conversely, some parish councils were concerned about the policies which would severely restrict new houses in villages, and the effect that this might have on the vitality of the villages themselves.

I prepared a long submission to the Council, which is exhibited on this site.Click here for my observations on the LDF. The Council's P&R Committee seems to have taken notice, as they have decided to defer proceeding with the Core Strategy, while at the same time they consider the allocation of new sites. Hopefully this will mean that the Core Strategy will be revised to take into account the representations that have been made and the public will be able to see what the Core Strategy is going to mean in terms of what is actually going to be built.

Click here for letter in regard to Council's loss of 500,000 planning grant

Eden House Road Development.

This is a proposal for a 25 acre business park right outside Eden Camp. The intention is to create between 600-800 jobs, and to include a publicly managed enterprise centre inside it. At the beginning I had some reservations, but did not feel strongly enough to speak out against it. However, I did expect Ryedale and the County Council to get a reasonable access with a roundabout, and to ensure that there would be no vehicle conflict with traffic from Eden Camp.

Regrettably, I expected far too much: the proposals that came before committee had no roundabout; no separate access, and the site shares the only real access from the A170 with Eden Camp. You don't have to be genius to see what is going to happen!

All three Council leaders voted in favour of this dreadful scheme.

I took up this matter with County Highways, spoke against the proposal and  joined the campaign to get the Secretary of State to call the matter in for a full public enquiry.

This campaign was successful and the application was called in and abandoned.

However, the Council  still seems determined to go ahead, and may include it in its Local Development Framework submissions. We shall see if the Council has learnt any lessons.

 

Sports Centre

After spending vast sums of money on consultants, the Council first turned this scheme down, and then changed its mind agains, after a furious public debate, and agreed to donate £1.5M to Malton School to do their own scheme. Hopefully this matter will now proceed without further controversy. 

Two Week Rubbish Collection

This is a matter which concerns many people, particularly in Summer. I would like to hear from you, with a view to getting a campaign going. Anybody interested, please use the "contact" tab to let me know.

I continue to work hard for Malton Ward.

 I wish you all a very merry Christmas.

.

19th December 2008

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